When I was young, my father died and the burden of taking care of the family fell on my mother’s shoulders. It was hard to survive on her meager income so she gave me to another family. They would look after me and in return, I worked for them...
My name is Fatuma Mohammed. I am from Ethiopia and I am 22 years old. I am in the graduating class at Hawassa University, Ethiopia, studying Applied Biology, and I am one of the FAWE Ethiopia / David and Lucile Packard Foundation beneficiaries.
I was born in Eastern Ethiopia in the historic town of Harar. When I was young, my father died and the burden of taking care of the family fell on my mother’s shoulders. She started baking injera (Ethiopian bread), washing clothes and cleaning houses for other families but it was difficult for us to survive on her meager income. As our family’s situation got worse, my mother gave me to another family. They would look after me and in return, I was supposed to work for them.
I had already received some Muslim education in the mosque. I was so eager to learn how to read and write that I used to urge the children in that family to read me the pieces of paper in which things were wrapped! Their mother understood my interest in education and took me to the nearby primary school so I joined Grade 1 when I was 7 years old.
I was happy going to school. Still, at that young age, I had a heavy workload. Since I had to take care of the younger children and do many domestic chores, I was often late or absent from school. As a result, I flew back to my poor mom, who was busy as usual in her large kitchen. She was, however, unable to send me to school.
I was then sent to a second family, whose main source of income was making traditional utensils. There, I went to school but still, I was taking care of their children, taking them to school, doing the house work and selling the utensils. Despite all that, I managed to reach Grade 7.
In the end, the insults of the father of the family became too much for me and I returned home. I was still keen to pursue my studies. I was sent to a third and eventually a fourth family. The lady in this fourth family encouraged me and it was there I completed grade 8. Remarkably, I stood first in Grade 8 and scored 90% in the national examination. Thanks to Allah, I struggled on and completed Grade 10.
During the summer vacation, I worked as a parking attendant and bought educational materials with the 200 birr ($12) I had earned and so registered in Grade 11. I went to live with the mother of a teacher, attended classes and washed clothes to earn money. I completed Grade 11 but had to leave that home due to a problem.
In order to complete Grade 12 and my high school education, I went to live in the seventh and last house while continuing as usual to survive by washing clothes for people. Finally, I took my Higher Education Entrance Qualification Examination, successfully scored 209 and was placed in the Applied Biology Department at Hawassa University. At last I had made it to university!
In university one needs money to buy things like educational materials and clothes. There are no job opportunities at university and no time to go outside and work. The university was also far, two days’ drive from where I was born, and money was needed for my transport. I was very worried about how I would manage to go to Hawassa University. I applied to the administration of my town for financial support and fortunately, I received some money from the administration and from friends and neighbours. I bought new clothes and was left with some money for my transport andeducational supplies.
Using the little money I had been given and what I had earned myself, I started my studies at the university. Three months later, I saw a notice posted on the board about FAWE Ethiopia’s plan to support economically challenged female university students. I applied for this assistance immediately. My application was accepted and I became one of the beneficiaries of FAWE Ethiopia’s scholarship project. Had I not received this opportunity, definitely I would have dropped out of university and lost the chance that I had sacrificed my whole life for.
Despite all the problems I have gone through, I have challenged the challenges and remain a courageous girl. Thanks to Allah, FAWE and David & Lucille Packard Foundation, I am now a third year distinction student, having scored a cumulative GPA of 3.8.
With the will of Allah, when I graduate and secure a job, I promise to repay what FAWE/Packard Foundation has done for me. I plan to support FAWE Ethiopia as a volunteer staff for some time. I am also committed to assist other economically challenged female university students in their psycho-social and economical problems after securing a job.
The support of FAWE Ethiopia and of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation enabled me and my fellow female students in Ethiopiato realise our dreams through education. Because of this support, what was impossible is now possible. This is behind our success on the educational ladder.
To my fellow female students, don’t lose hope, be courageous and faithful to challenge the challenges!